One of the most upsetting images of the Dodgers' 2013 season came in the final game of the regular season. As the team celebrated on the field for finishing on top of the NL West, Matt Kemp emerged from the dugout on crutches.
There was an immediate panic as fans began to realize that their superstar outfielder would be sitting out the playoffs. Kemp was shut down and sent in for surgery to repair his shoulder and, a few weeks later, his left ankle.
That was just the way 2013 went for Kemp. He played in 73 games with less than 300 at-bats, and was dealing with nagging injuries through most of them.
With all these surgeries there was a question as to whether he would be ready to play at the start of 2014. Apparently, the answer is yes, because he will be joining the club in a few weeks for Spring Training.
General Manager Ned Colletti announced that Kemp has started to hit, and is out of his protective boot. As encouraging as that news is, the Dodgers need to take it slow and play it safe with him.
Kemp has come back early from injury far too many times.
While he is a fantastic talent and a big threat in the lineup, his immediate presence is not necessary because of the Dodgers crowded outfield.
Bring him back slowly, and make sure he is 100 percent. There is no reason for him to play through any pain, or lose time by re-injuring his shoulder/hamstring/ankle due to coming back too soon.
On Wednesday Kemp posted an image on his Instagram account working out on a machine at the gym. It is uplifting to see, considering the last image of Kemp in the minds of fans was him hobbling around.
The center fielder has been a fan favorite for years, and is entering the third season of an eight-year, $160 million contract. Here's to a good Spring Training, a strong recovery, and a comeback season for Matt Kemp.